(Photo: Mars Hill Church)
IRVINE, Calif. – Speaking on the subject of preaching about Jesus at a leadership conference in Southern California, evangelist and pastor Greg Laurie said he is concerned that churches that are moving away from making sermons the focal point of a worship service are not presenting the full Gospel.
"The trend at a lot of churches today is to move away from preaching. We all got our drama, and our video roll-in, and … we have our message, but it's sort of like a sermon-ette which I fear is creating a 'Christian-ette,'" said Laurie during the opening session of the two-day Resurgence Conference (R12) on Tuesday. "I'm saying that we need to return to biblical preaching."
Laurie was invited to be one of eight speakers at the conference held at Mariners Church in Irvine by Resurgence leadership ministry founder Pastor Mark Driscoll. The event is organized and hosted by Driscoll's Seattle-based Mars Hill Church.
"People will develop an appetite for what you feed them. If you build your church on giving, if you build your church on guest artists, if you build your church on razzle-dazzle stuff, that's what they are going to come wanting. But if you teach your people to love the Word of God that's what they will come hungry for and they will come with their Bibles and they will be ready to learn. We are called to do this. This is what our culture needs today," said Laurie, who has been an evangelistic preacher for 40 years.
"All these other things that we utilize in the church have a place, but I believe the main event at every service should be the preaching and teaching of the Word," he said.
Laurie told several stories about becoming a Christian and evangelist, including going to a church gathering at a local beach that includes a small cove that can serve as a sort of natural amphitheater. When he first arrived at the beach, people assumed that he was a pastor and asked him to baptize them.
After taking a leap of faith and having no experience in baptizing anyone, Laurie performed the baptisms then gave a Gospel message to those watching from the cove. After his sermon, more people asked to be baptized and he submerged them in the water as well.
"I saw right there the power of the Gospel. I was not qualified. I really didn't have any training for it, but I felt like God would honor His word," Laurie said.
In addition to being the lead pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship based in Riverside and Orange counties, Laurie is best known for his Harvest Crusades, large-scale evangelistic outreaches usually held at stadiums and arenas. Since 1990, the events have been put on around the United States and in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. More than 4,744,000 people have attended a Harvest Crusades event in person, and more than 399,300 people have registered decisions of faith in Jesus Christ, according to Harvest officials.
On Aug. 26, Laurie led his ministry's first "Harvest America," perhaps the largest Christian outreach event ever in the U.S. The event was live-streamed to more than 2,200 host locations, broadcast by two Christian TV stations and more than 600 radio stations.
Laurie told those in attendance at the conference that preaching is the primary way that God reaches lost people.
"To preach Jesus we must be culturally relevant because the objective of evangelistic preaching is to build a bridge not to burn one," he said. "I'm going to relate to the nonbelievers as much as I can, but I am not going to lower my standard in order to extend my reach. You have to be very careful in this area because I think sometimes we may trade reverence for relevance."
He added, "When I come to the pulpit I'm not a stand-up comedian, I'm not a social architect, and I'm not a stinking life coach. I'm a preacher of the Gospel and I'm a teacher of the Word. I think the 'coolest' thing you can do is just be yourself.
"I find that as new generations come along and musical styles ebb and flow and change that the Word of God connects and authenticity connects."
Other speakers at the conference on Tuesday were Rick Warren, Nick Vujicic, and Lecrae. Scheduled to speak on Wednesday are Craig Groeschel, Miles McPherson, James MacDonald, and Driscoll.
"I want to help other Christian leaders get more done," said Driscoll, in regards to the conference. "Instead of arguing about what others are doing or complaining what we wish we were doing, it would be nice to get some equipping to get it done. That's the big idea for the team that I've assembled and invited to join us for a first ever Resurgence conference."
On the Web: http://theresurgence.com/conference